About six automobile workshop owners at the Olarongchu are awaiting Thimphu Thromde’s response on their appeals for immediate intervention on illegal and excessive rent hike by their building owners.

The owners through the Automobile Sectors’ Association of Bhutan (ASAB) requested the thromde to intervene and resolve the issue. The workshop firms claimed that they did not agree to the huge increase in the rent following which the building owners issued them with eviction notices.

In 2012, the workshop firms had the same issue with the building owners. The thrompon then intervened and negotiated the rent on mutual consent.

However, this time they said the issue dragged on.

ASAB general secretary, LB Gurung who is also one of the complainants, wrote to the Thimphu Thrompon on January 3, last year.

He said the association has received many appeal applications from workshop owners for immediate intervention against the notices of increase in building rent given by the building owners.

“The notice stipulated that the automobile workshop owners have to pay an increased amount rent failing which they are required to vacate the workshop premises within three months from the date of the notice.”

The association explained in its letter that the hike was not in line with the Tenancy Act because it was far above the 10 percent allowed by the Act every two years.

It stated that the workshop owners have been paying the 10 percent increase every two years. The last increase was in October 2016. “It is demoralising to receive an ultimatum to either pay the revised rent without challenge failing which the automobile units have to vacate the buildings where they have been operating for the past many years.”

LB Gurung said the workshop owners requested the building owners to cancel the notice to vacate to which they were told it would be done if they paid the revised rent.

The association’s general secretary said that these workshops moved to Olarongchhu area following orders from the government and an ultimatum from the then Thimphu city corporation.

Following the relocation, the workshop owners invested in converting the empty buildings and installing heavy equipment and machines, the letter states.

“Given the difficulty involved in the employment and livelihood of the many staff and youth working in these workshop units in the event of forceful vacation by the building owners, the workshop owners are facing a difficult situation for the second time since 2008,” the letter stated.

The association sought the thrompon to intervene once again and requested him to help seal a lease agreement for 20 years with an increase in rent as per the Tenancy Act.

If a deal could not be negotiated, the association asked the thromde to propose the government to identify an area outside Thimphu.

In the past two years, there were about 13 such cases. Of that, the thromde dispute settlement body gave its decision on seven cases. The workshop owners dissatisfied with the decision registered the case in court.

The ASAB executive members said they have requested the ministers, and the prime minister to help resolve the matter.

The ASAB wrote to the Prime Minister on June 11 last year echoing similar concerns.

It stated that the sector has been grappling with unsustainability issues from increase in rent and consequential uncertain lease term.

“Consequently the potential of sustainable growth with built up capability to provide better employment facilities and expected service to the customers has also been rather limited,” their letter states.

The association said that a majority of their overhead cost was on rent.

The building owners in their letters to the workshop owners said that they wanted to renovate their buildings, expand, or let their children operate them.

Thrompon Kinlay Dorji said that he was told that the case is in court and he does not want to comment.

Tshering Palden